If you’ve spent time traveling alone for business, you know that nothing smells as sad as the lingering odor of a room-service cheeseburger the morning after. But you probably also know that another night at a table for one just off the hotel lobby can be a heartbreaker.
So instead of sitting down for a plate of social anxiety with a side of boredom bordelaise, consider some other ways to spend your evening hours.
1. Find a meeting. Whatever organization you’re a card-carrying member of (professional, political, or pathological), there’s bound to be a chapter in the city you’re visiting. Check the website’s meeting calendar or drop a line to someone with an organizational title. If nothing’s on the schedule, perhaps there’s a chance for a one-on-one at an associated event.
2. Explore meatspace. By which we mean the physical embodiment of your virtual life. Chances are you’ve got LinkedIn friends in Lincoln, Facebook friends in Fresno, and follow Instagrams in Indianapolis. Consider a real-life encounter for a change. This strategy gets points for ease since it’s simple to send a low-commitment message within the app.
3. Expand your passions. Do like opera? Ceramics? Rockabilly? A quick Internet search of the local alt-weekly, Facebook events, or Meetup (yes, that’s still a thing) could land you at a celebrity book signing at a local bookstore, or an all-ukulele jam session.
4. Rub elbows. It’s easy to avoid feeling alone by sitting at the hotel bar, but it’s not always a wise strategy to trade boredom for Bombay Sapphire. Luckily, many great restaurants are adding kitchen bars and community tables that offer a show and culinary conversation. Your concierge should have some suggestions, and if not, the Internet will.
5. Embrace the uncomfortable. You’re in a totally new city. You know no one and no one is judging you. You are effectively invisible. This realization (perhaps printed on a card for occasional reminders) means that you can take a tango lesson, dig your fingers into Ethiopian food, or perform at Crossdress Karaoke. Just remember that credit card receipts and arrest records are not invisible.
6. Expand your mind. If your schedule and sore feet mean you’ll be dining alone in the hotel restaurant after all, then be picky about your non-human dinner companion. Scrolling through Facebook on your iPhone is a recipe for loneliness, but an interesting magazine or a book (in paper or pixel) will let you leave the table with a full head as well as a full belly.